Emboldened by an increased Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, the California legislature and the upcoming swearing-in of a new president, Bay Area Democrats in Washington and Sacramento are preparing for the arrival of Barack Obama and a dramatic political climate change.
U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Walnut Creek), majority whip of a caucus of Northern California Democrats and chair of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, said she has high expectations for what can be achieved under the new president.
"The difference between the Bush administration and the incoming Obama administration is clear," Tauscher said in a recent e-mail. "The Obama team is dedicated to bringing people together and using facts, not ideology, to make decisions."
Newly elected Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) began her first full legislative year in the House of Representatives last week with similar sentiments, a Speier spokesman said.
"President-elect Obama is going to be more accessible, more in line with the way we feel," said Speier's spokesman Mike Larsen. "The administration so far has set this tone that the government is going to be more transparent."
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) hopes the rotation in the White House will breathe new life into a bill to establish 2,093 nautical miles of marine sanctuary off the coasts of Marin and Sonoma counties.
On the first day of the 111th Congress, Woolsey reintroduced the bill, known as the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries and Protection Act. The bill was introduced by Woolsey in 2005 but stalled in the Senate.
"I am committed to doing everything that I can to move this forward and won't let up until it is signed into law by President Obama," Woolsey said in a prepared statement.
Hoping to capitalize on President-elect Obama's plans to tackle the issue of health care, state Sen. Mark Leno has taken over sponsorship of SB 840, the California Health Insurance Reliability Act, which would make the state the first in the country to establish statewide health care insurance covering all its residents.
Presuming they move beyond a budget stalemate, state senators could possibly vote on the bill within a month, Leno said.
Even with all the positive expectations for the Obama administration in the largely Democratic Bay Area, some point out that there are daunting challenges ahead.
"Nuance is everything," said state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who on Monday was thrust into the midst of state budget negotiations as a freshman representative in Sacramento.
Ammiano expressed concern with the direction of an economic stimulus package proposed by Obama last week.
"How it's directed needs to get hashed out," Ammiano said. "All we keep hearing is 'infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure' which in itself isn't a bad thing, but we have a cash problem."